Let’s get this straight right off: It was not my decision to pay everyone the same. That was the way the boss wanted it, and I follow orders. To tell you the truth, I felt a little funny about it. I watched how hard those guys that got hired at dawn worked. The ones who came later worked hard too, but there’s a big difference between working for twelve hours and one.
When the boss told me to give out the full daily wage for everybody, I was surprised. I thought maybe he’d add some kind of a bonus for the ones who picked all day. But no. It was like his generosity only went toward the ones who got hired late. More for them than expected; the amount agreed-upon for everyone else. He even paid them first. Fair…and not quite fair. Depends on how you look at it. Depends on who you’re looking at.
I don’t blame the all-day folks for being mad. But here’s what they don’t know: they were already at the top of the pay scale. That daily wage was way above the norm. The boss was paying out everything he was making off that vineyard. The only way to pay those workers more was to pay others less.. and that’s not how he rolls. Not how he thinks. He’s quirky, the boss… hard to understand at times. But I’ll tell you this: he knows what he’s doing.
Who might the manager in Jesus’ story represent? I think he stands for all who consider ourselves servants of God, who participate in what God is doing, carry out God’s mercy and God’s justice, speak God’s peace, who forgive and heal and love and tend. God’s ways don’t always make sense to us – we take a big leap of faith whenever we walk into the works God has prepared for us.
It can be hard to be God’s rep in the face of grief or crisis, to sit with someone in who feels God is not blessing her as God blesses others. It is a challenge to proclaim God’s love to someone who insists they have never known it, cannot feel it. I often have to resist the impulse to defend God when someone is disappointed or accusing, when something in the Bible or the church causes offense. Then I remember, God doesn’t need me to defend him. God only needs me to be true to what I believe God is telling or showing or leading.
And God needs us to be true to ourselves. We don’t leave ourselves at the door when we work for God - the Spirit of God works with and through us, through our intellect, emotions, history, moods, our circumstances on any given day. God doesn’t want robots – God seems to want us.
Are you willing to be God’s “ managing agent” today? What vineyard have you been called to tend? Are there difficult “orders” to carry out? We don’t have to worry about doing it ourselves. We can simply pray, “Lord, if you want me to do this thing, or have that conversation, please work in me and through me.” And then pay attention to what happens.
I stand on the reminder I once got, that God already loves me the most. There is nothing I can do or have to do to make God love me more, because God is already as delighted in me as can be. I could quit accomplishing and producing right now, and my God-salary would not decrease. I’m already at the top of a really generous pay scale. And so are you.